In this debut novel, Popik explores the challenges that bipolar disorder can pose to a marriage.
Richard Stone, a high-powered attorney, is offered a partnership at a new firm started by one of his oldest friends. He and his wife, Clare, move their family from the San Francisco Bay Area to Los Angeles. After Richard fails to return home from work one night, Clare agonizes for days until her missing husband reappears. The novel offers subtle clues about what’s affecting Richard, who has a history of spending sprees and believes that FBI agents are following him; it turns out that he has undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Popik gives readers a compelling glimpse into what the disorder might look like from the inside and the outside, by telling the story from Richard’s and Clare’s perspectives. Richard fluctuates between episodes of frightening paranoia and stark moments of clarity. Meanwhile, Clare is left alone to comfort her two sons and question the quality of her marriage. When Richard is finally correctly diagnosed, he deals with the loss of his work identity as he begins to realize that some of his success as an attorney might be due to the energy of his manic episodes. The Stones’ marriage is further strained when Clare becomes Richard’s caretaker as he battles depression. Neither of them totally understands Richard’s illness, nor how to live with it. Popik skillfully extends the drama beyond the domestic sphere as the Stones deal with the violent ex-husband of one of Richard’s clients.
A short, turbulent work that poses hard questions about living with mental illness, while also telling a consistently engaging story.